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Archive for June, 2011

You’ve heard the one about the husband and wife driving in their car. The wife asks, “Where are we going?” The husband answers, “I don’t know, but we’re making good time!” It’s sad, but people can go through life like that, too. They’re moving fast, but don’t quite know where.

To live a happy and holy life means that we live with the end in mind. In other words, if we have  a destination we can actually know if we’re making progress which will lead to both happiness and holiness. Purpose and meaning come from that goal – that end we have in mind.

Solomon wrote about this long before Steven Covey did in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He (Solomon) was the original “been there, done that, got the t-shirt” person. He tried and studied everything to learn the meaning and purpose of life, but came up short – all was vanity (Ecclesiastes 1:2). Near the end of his life he wrote, “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth” before everything slips away (Ecclesiastes 12:1a). Solomon concludes the book of Ecclesiastes and this issue by writing, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

In our youth (however that is defined), we need to remember our Creator and our Judge by fearing Him and keeping His commandments. If we keep that – the end – in mind, our life will be happy and holy. If we wander in aimlessness and purposelessness, not remembering God or fearing Him or keeping His commandments, then our life won’t be happy or holy.

If we have the end in mind, we’ll know where we’re going and whether or not we’re making progress.

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This morning I had the privilege of preaching on Ephesians 4:11-16. A summary of my sermon – in one sentence – follows: God has given gifted men to the church for the purposes of ministry, maturity, stability, and growth.

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“If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (2 Tim. 4:6-8) The apostle Paul gave these instructions to Timothy, a young man whom he personally trained and discipled to be a shepherd and an elder in the church.

Notice the clear distinction made between the body and soul. Timothy, and by extension we, are told to train ourselves for the purpose of godliness (progressively reflecting more of God’s character and nature) and to realize that bodily training has value in this life but not the next. This doesn’t mean, for example, that we shouldn’t exercise, but we should understand the its limitations.

Put in other words, this is what Paul is saying: physical things can never satisfy or fill our souls, and immaterial things can never satisfy or fill our bodies. There is a gigantic category difference between body and soul, material and immaterial. Certainly, they’re linked together – our soul (mind, affections, and will) influence our bodies, and our bodies influence our souls – but they are not the same thing. We get into trouble when we mix them up.

The best pizza you’ve ever had can never give you peace. Buying a new car will never give you purpose and meaning in life. Joy – true joy – can never come from your paycheck. Forgiveness cannot be given and guilt cannot be removed through alcohol and drugs. Why not? Because they were never designed to meet those needs. By the same token, if you’re hungry, don’t read a chapter of the Bible – get some food! Being content with life won’t satisfy your thirst. Kindness, as good as it is, won’t transport you from home to work. Why? Because they were never designed to meet those needs.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus taught that blessedness, or happiness, comes from being poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness (Matt. 5:3-12). We don’t find a pizza, clothes, cars, homes, alcohol, drugs, jobs, or anything material in that list because they cannot bring true blessedness and happiness.

I love pizza, but it can’t bring me peace, joy, or happiness. That was never its design. Peace, joy, happiness, and every other virtue, come from God and not from things.

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This morning I had the privilege of preaching on Ephesians 4:7-10. Here is a summary of my sermon in the space of one sentence: The church is diverse because of the differing spiritual gifts given to us by Jesus Christ.

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I listened to an interview with Vincent Bugliosi on a podcast of Dennis Prager’s radio talk show, and was surprised – not in a good way. Bugliosi’s latest book, Divinity of Doubt: The God Question, is his case for agnosticism. He is neither a theist (one who believes in a divine being) or an atheist (one who does not believe in a divine being), but rather an agnostic (he doesn’t know and doesn’t think anyone can know for certain if a divine being exists).

I was surprised by the weak, and frankly childish, case against the Bible that Bugliosi presented. I expected more from the man who prosecuted Charles Manson, wrote an excellent book on the assassination of President Kennedy, and is considered a brilliant legal mind. The two points he raised in support of his contention that the Bible is not to be believed or trusted were these:

  1. Genesis 1 and 2 present contradictory accounts of creation. (No, they don’t. Genesis 1:1-2:3 are an account and description of God’s act of creation. Genesis 2:4-25 gives the details of the sixth day of creation, that of human beings which are the focus of God’s action from this point forward. Anyone who reads the text and pays attention should understand there is no contradiction here.)
  2. In Genesis 3:9, God asks Adam “Where are you?” If God is omnipresent and omniscient, why did He have to ask this? Because He asked the question, God is neither omniscient nor omnipresent. (God didn’t ask the question out of ignorance on His part. God knew precisely where Adam was when the question was asked. The purpose of His question was to “bring Adam out in the open,” so to speak. Adam had disobeyed and rebelled against God earlier in the chapter, and was hiding from Him. God wanted Adam to confess his sin and take responsibility for it, which he wasn’t doing. In fact, in verse 10 Adam says he hid because he was afraid of God.)  

Bugliosi’s argument is weak, which surprised me. In an interview which spanned about twenty minutes, it seems that he could have brought up some stronger objections. I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know how he makes his case, but if he has stronger arguments he didn’t mention them. If I had twenty minutes, I’d want to highlight my strongest points.

Bugliosi’s comments show that even highly intelligent people don’t always think clearly and end up making false claims. It also confirms the idea that there are answers to the questions people have; that we don’t need to be alarmed by every new book written trying to debunk Christianity; and that we need to do our homework (“study to show yourself approved” – 2 Timothy 2:15) so we can debunk the debunkers.

 

 

 

 

 

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At the beginning of Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin wrote:

Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But while joined by many bonds, which one precedes and brings forth the other is not easy to discern. In the first place, no one can look upon himself without immediately turning his thoughts to the contemplation of God, in whom he ‘lives and moves’ (Acts 17:28). (Book 1.I.1)

 He then says:

Again, it is certain that man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked upon God’s face, and then descends from contemplating him to scrutinize himself.

 If we know God, we will know ourselves. If we don’t know God, we won’t know ourselves. When I reflect upon God – His character and His works – I’m unalterably drawn to the conclusion that I am not God, and that I fall far short of His perfect attributes and standard. When I reflect upon and scrutinize myself, I quickly realize the brutal truth that God is not me – I am a creature, He is the Creator; I am finite, He is infinite; I am sinful, He is holy.

Know God. Know yourself.

 

 

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This morning, I had the privilege of preaching on Ephesians 4:4-6. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: The church has unity because it is one body, has one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father.

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